One in 10 American Adults is a ‘Tweeter’

February 18, 2009

This article is included in these additional categories:

Analytics, Automated & MarTech | Newspapers | Technology | Youth & Gen X

More than one in ten (11%) online adults in the US say they have used Twitter – or a similar service – to share updates about themselves or view updates about others, and those who use Twitter have a greater affinity for mobile devices, according to new research from the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

The most recent Pew study on the topic found that the number of tweeters, which was gauged in December 2008, appears to be growing quickly. In contrast to December’s 11%, only 9% said they had used Twitter in November 2008, and 6% of internet users responded yes to a similar question in May 2008.

Younger Users Tweet More

The research also found that, not surprisingly, younger internet users lead the way in using Twitter and similar services. Nearly one in five (19%) online adults ages 18-24 have used Twitter and similar services, as have 20% of online adults age 25-34.

Use of these services drops off steadily after age 35 with 10% of 35 to 44 year olds and 5% of 45 to 54 year olds using Twitter, Pew said. The decline is even more stark among older internet users; 4% of 55-64 year olds and 2% of those 65 and older use Twitter.

Given the youth of most Twitter users, it is not surprising to find that online Americans who live in lower-income households are more likely to use Twitter than more affluent Americans, said Pew.? Some 17% of internet users in households earning less than $30K annually tweet and update their status, compared with 10% of those earning more than $75K.

Wireless Users More Likely to Tweet

Wireless internet users also are more likely to be users of Twitter and other status updating services; 14% of users who access the internet wirelessly via a laptop, handheld or cell phone have used Twitter or the like, compared with 6% of users who go online but do not do so wirelessly.

Twitter Entwined with Social Media

The use of Twitter is highly intertwined with the use of other social media; both blogging and social network use increase the likelihood that an individual also uses Twitter, according to the study.? Adults who use online social networks are much more likely to say that they have used Twitter or some other service to update their status and read the status updates of others. Nearly one quarter (23%) of social network users say they have ever Twittered or used a similar service.

In comparison, just 4% of those who do not use social networks have ever used Twitter or updated their status online. The correlation between status updates and social network use is less surprising given that many social network sites offer opportunities to post status updates and read the updates of others, Pew said.

Blogging shows a similar pattern to social media: 27% of bloggers tweet, compared with just 10% of those who do not keep a blog. Overall, 13% of internet users have created a blog.

Characteristics of “Tweeters”

The demographic profile of Twitter users as a whole reveals some additional details about who uses Twitter and how they communicate and consume information, the study found.

Key findings about Twitter users:

  • Though Twitter users are young, their median age is 31. In comparison, the median age of a MySpace user is 27, a Facebook user is 26 and a LinkedIn user is 40.7.
  • Twitter users are slightly more racially and ethnically diverse than is the full US population, most likely because they are younger. Younger Americans are a more ethnically and racially diverse group than is the full population.
  • Twitter users are slightly more likely to live in urban areas, with 35% of Twitter users living in urban areas (compared with 29% of all internet users) and just 9% of tweeters and status updaters living in rural areas, compared with 17% of internet users.
  • Twitter users and status updaters are much more likely to be using wireless technologies – laptops, handhelds and cell phones – for internet access, or cell phones for text messaging, the research found. More than three-quarters (76%) of Twitter users use the internet wirelessly – either on a laptop with a wireless connection, or via PDA, handheld or cell phone. In comparison, 57% of those who go online but do not use Twitter, and 59% of internet users as a whole connect to the internet wirelessly.
  • Cell phone ownership among Twitter users is comparable to the online population as a whole, but Twitter users are more likely to use their cell phone to text and go online. More than four in five (82%) Twitter users have a cell phone and use it to send text messages, while 59% of those who go online but do not use Twitter (and 61% of the internet-using population at large) own a cell phone and use it to send text messages.
  • Twitter users are more likely to use their cell phones to connect to the internet; fully two in five (40%) Twitterers with cell phones use the device to connect to the internet, while one quarter (24%) of those who go online but do not use Twitter do the same.

Twitter Users Consume News on Mobile Devices

Along with communicating extensively via untethered mobile devices, Twitter users are more likely to consume news and information on these devices as well, Pew found. For many Twitter users, learning about and sharing relevant and recent nuggets of information is a primary utility of the service. While Twitter users are just as likely as others to consume news on any given day, they are more likely to consume it on mobile devices and less likely to engage with news via more traditional outlets. Tweeters are less likely to read a printed copy of a newspaper, but more likely to read a newspaper online (76% vs. 60% of non-Twitter users), and more likely to read a news story on a cell phone (14% vs. 6%) or on a smart phone (17% vs. 7%).


A similar pattern holds for video news consumption. On any given day, Twitter users are just as likely as others to watch news on a TV, and just as likely to watch video news on a computer, but more likely to watch a news video on a cell phone (6% vs. 1%) or on a smart phone (8% vs. 1%).

Tweeters Read Blogs

Regardless of the platform, Pew also found that Twitter users are also significant consumers of blog content. Some 21% read someone else’s blog ‘yesterday’ and 57% of Twitterers have ever read a blog. By comparison, 9% of those who go online but do not Twitter read someone else’s blog yesterday, and 29% have ever read a blog.

Twitter users also keep blogs at a greater rate than the overall online population; 29% of Twitter users have ever created a blog, and 8% worked on a blog ‘yesterday.’ In contrast, 11% of internet users have created a blog and 3% are working on their blog on any given day.


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